Early Diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s Disease
Researchers at Flinders University have made new discoveries about Parkinson’s disease that may help in the diagnosis and treatment of this neurodegenerative disease. They found that a protein called VAMP2 is involved not only in communication between neurons, but also in cell death. Although the mechanism by which VAMP2 interferes with Parkinson disease is still under investigation, this new protein may become in the future a new therapeutic target in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. It must be noted that Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common neurodegenerative disease that usually occurs in patients aged between 40 and 70 years.
The disease is caused by loss of dopaminergic neurons ( involved in voluntary movements) in substantia nigra. It is an incurable disease and unfortunately, most symptoms occur when most dopaminergic neurons have already died. In other words, current treatment can only improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Therefore, researchers are now focused to discover markers to diagnose disease in an early stage when treatment can stop the disease.
Dr Wei-Ping Gai from the University’s Human Physiology Department, explained that VAMP2 protein is involved in neuronal transmission but it was discovered that it is also involved in Parkinson’s disease. “It’s the second most common neurodegenerative disorder in older populations and it’s extremely prevalent in countries like Australia, which is why it must be a research priority.” he said. Now researchers hope to find out wth the use of an analytical method called mass spectrometry why these protein aggregates in brain cells. Dr. Gai said that if they could find the cause of these protein aggregates, they could find new markers for early diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a condition characterized by hypertonia and hypokinesia. One hallmark of the disease is bradykinesia which refers to the slowness of voluntary movements. Parkinson patients have a characteristic walking (small steps), postural instability, tremor (which is emphasized by emotions and diminishes during voluntary movements), and other motor symptoms. Besides these motor symptoms, patients also have other symptoms such as sleep disturbances (most commonly insomnia), behavioral disorders, depression, urination disturbances(dysuria), digestive disorders (constipation), etc.
There are several drugs to keep control of Parkinson’s disease but not all patients are responsive to treatment. The most important medication is levo-dopa or dopamine agonists, such as pramipexole and ripinorole. Other drugs are inhibitors of COMT, MAO B ( rasagiline), amantadine, anticholinergics etc. In selected cases deep brain stimulation may be performed, and involves implanting a brain pacemaker, which sends impulses to specific regions of the brain.